getting my feet wet with candied pecans

I’ve been feeling out of sorts in the kitchen lately. To be totally honest, I haven’t felt like cooking at all. I want to feel like cooking, but I just don’t. I flip through cookbooks and cooking magazines and the inspiration isn’t striking. The thought of having to prepare a meal is, frankly, overwhelming.

My cooking mojo has gone on hiatus.

Since Dad has been in the hospital, I’ve been spending much of my spare time sitting beside his hospital bed, listening to the beeps and dings of the monitors, holding his hand and holding vigil. We’ve been eating entirely too much take out in the evening, and the local food delivery guy has probably memorized our address by now. If weeknight cooking happens, it’s because Sam does it. By the time I get home in the evenings, my energy is sapped.

I guess I’m not as good at multitasking as I thought.

On Saturday I planned to immerse myself in the kitchen and cook something, anything. I just needed to hold a knife, chop a vegetable, stir a batter. The pile of food magazines on my desk has grown to epic proportions, but I wasn’t able to find inspiration there. And, rather than looking inviting, that pile just looked daunting. I had just received a new cookbook, Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South, so I hoped to find something promising there. His cookbook is pretty incredible – beautiful pages filled with gorgeous fonts and illustrations, fantastic southern recipes in each chapter – but I wasn’t up to even cooking from that. I needed Hugh to show up to cook for me. Or at least with me.

Instead, I thought about the bag of frozen pecans in the freezer, and I finally had an idea. I would make candied pecans and bring them as a gift to my dad’s nurse and respiratory therapist. They were so good with him – so caring and compassionate, but also confident and professional – while Dad was on the ventilator. Candied pecans wouldn’t begin to express my gratitude, but it would be a start.

It only took about 35 minutes, from start to finish, but it was just enough to get my feet wet in the kitchen again. A little measuring, a bit of mixing – nothing too taxing and definitely tasks I could handle that morning. The pecans were quite good. The combination of maple syrup and brown sugar was a natural match, and the cayenne pepper gave just a hint of heat on the back of the palate.

I feel bad about this, but the pecans were so good that we kept them all. That gift for Dad’s nurse will just have to wait a bit longer.

*    *    *    *    *    *

Thank you all for all of the warm wishes and happy, healing vibes and prayers you’ve been sending my way. Thankfully, Dad was taken off the ventilator two days ago. He’s now breathing on his own and talking again. He’s still in the Intensive Care Unit, but things are looking up. I may not have responded to each of you, but please know that every comment and every email has meant so much to me. Thank you.


Yield: about 3 cups

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Candied Pecans

These pecans make a great food gift for the holidays. They're very easy to prepare and you can double or triple this recipe to make a large batch. Package the candied pecans in jars, tie a pretty ribbon around the top, and you're set.


2 tablespoons light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg white, room temperature
12 ounces pecan halves
1/8 cup maple syrup


Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a half-sheet pan with non-stick aluminum foil and set aside.

In a small bowl, mix sugar, cayenne pepper, and salt; set aside. In a second, larger bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy. Add the pecans to the egg white and stir to coat well. Drizzle maple syrup over pecans and combine until all pecan halves are coated. Add sugar mixture to pecans and toss until well combined.

Spread pecans on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 30 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool completely. Store in an air-tight covered jar.